Looking Back (Bronica S2)

Most of the photographers that I know are into their gear as much (or more) as they are into making photos, and I’m not really any different. Back when I was a carpenter, I learned that there is nothing quite like working with a really well made tool. I’m not talking about a DeWalt circular saw, or a Hitachi nail gun… I’m talking about about using a Stanley Bedrock No. 605 that has been well tuned and razor sharp, or a hand made Japanese chisel that fits so perfectly in your hand that you don’t want to put it down, or a Disston No. 8 handsaw that’s set and sharp and perfectly balanced. For me, using old film cameras has a very similar feeling, so it’s not really surprising that I own some 30+ old cameras, and try to use all of them. A well made camera is sometimes enough inspiration in itself to make me want to go take photos just to use it.

One camera that continues to inspire me that way is my 1960s Zenza Bronica S2 and its Nikkor-P 75mm f/2.8 lens. The camera aside, the Nikkor-P 75/2.8 is reason enough to pick up one of these cameras. It’s a fantastic lens with fantastic rendering, and is one of the best bargains in medium format optics. The camera is also a great camera and usually a great bargain. Competing with names like Hasselblad and Rolleiflex, the early Bronica cameras developed (whether deserved or not) a reputation for being unreliable, so these cameras can usually be found for a song. As for reliability… I doubt the original Bronica was any less reliable than the original Hasselblad, and the later Bronica S2 and S2a and still very good cameras. They are also beautiful cameras. To me, the Bronica S2 is the Dusenberg of cameras. It’s a symphony of chrome and steel, with a touch of Art Deco design. Everything operates with precision and smoothness. The shutter is nearly the loudest I’ve used, but is actually quite smooth still. The Zenza Bronica story is a fascinating story. If you get a chance, google it and read up on it.

Here’s a photo of my Bronica S2,

 

And here are some photos that I’ve made with it,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Karen christensen September 22, 2016

    Wonderful set of photographs. Really liked reading about your camera. I never used a Bronica but always liked the medium formats. And what a fine lens! Ultimately it is not the camera or the lens but the eye of the photographer that makes the film come to life. Your love of this tool combined with an artists eye have made the film a work of art.

  2. Cameron September 22, 2016

    That last shot of the cherry (or are the ume) blossoms is beautiful, man. It reminds me of living back in Japan. Well done! Side note, I now want a Bronica.

  3. Swift1 September 22, 2016

    Thanks Cameron.
    Like I said, the lens alone is worth getting one of these cameras 🙂

  4. Swift1 September 22, 2016

    Thank you, Karen.

  5. Karen Rycheck September 22, 2016

    You simply amaze me with your compositions, color, and artistic sensibility. Love your work, and these old cameras are fabulous!

  6. Swift1 September 23, 2016

    Thank you, Karen Rycheck.

  7. Andreas November 27, 2016

    Colton, those photographs are amazing – beautiful colours and great compositions.
    Your Broni S2 is a beauty too !
    I always wanted one, but I’m still afraid about focusing on a matte screen without any focusing helps like a split screen or something else …
    I will have to look for an aftermarket screen – any thoughts about this ?

    Greetings from Germany – Andreas (aka macfred64)

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